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Construction in Thailand Is building in Thailand as bad as it seems? Can properties really be built and fitted out to European standards? Would you like to Build your own house in Phuket, or a swimming pool in Bangkok? Solar water heating in Pattaya? Or maybe you want to build a resort or guesthouse on Koh Samui? If you want to build a luxury house in Thailand then this is the forum for you.

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Old 13-08-2010, 04:15 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by AussieBazza
check out his websites and click on the gallery to see what quality you can expect
Lets say there are some bad or crappy bits to his work, would he put those pictures in his gallery? Checking someones gallery is no way to get an idea of quality of work especially when it is that person who chooses which pictures to upload.
Only way is to actually visit finished jobs, aint no other way.
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Old 13-08-2010, 06:43 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Go that right dirty dog!!!
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Old 07-02-2011, 10:24 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Good luck Naja Tom

Originally Posted by Naja Tom View Post
"maybe he's managed building some houses but he doesn't answer email !!![/quote]
As I'd be cautious about Alan....his rep his born of mythology. If one cares to, really do some background work on this rascal. To many negatives outweigh the pluses."[/quote]

"Well, whoever ends up doing anything for me I will have checked out thoroughly, looked at his work in person wherever possible and talk to the people he built for. If the builder won't let me do that then he would not be doing anything for me. I looked at his site and some of the pics look like nice work but I'd rather see it in person. And some of the pics I could not view or view enlarged."[/quote]

Hi Tom,

My best advice when it comes to your potential project is to be flexible and expect the unexpected. Regardless of the care that you put into the details, managing the project to success will take flexibility and patience once the project kicks off.

Having done a home between two contractors, and two other projects with the 2nd contractor - have proven to be challenging to keep the work on specification and sort out the issues that pop up. Left to their own - most builders will often make the decision that favors them. Sometimes it is not intentional, but it happens. Cutting corners on materials or a specification is the way they can improve their profits (on fixed price jobs), if they believe it will go noticed or not be rejected by the homeowner.

All the advance check out on your part, will not cover you against the developments that will take place during the project. It does help, but its only a stepping stone.

As some examples..... My original house contractor, I checked him out well. Saw 3 homes he built, met with owners etc. Saw plans of large projects he had done, heard his story. His 8 years working experience as a municipal business manager supervising town project work, in addition to his own business, was a good credential to have.

Unfortunately, He became a bad contractor. Two months into the job, he decided at random to run for a higher municipal office. He assured me it would not impact my house project. However it very much changed the house project game. He went from a good contractor on site 5 X days per week to 1 or 2 days a week project for him. My project went from a home that was nearing 40 percent completion in 2 ass busting months, with the good crews - Into spending 2 more months to get another 15% more done. Projewct badly behind schedule, materials never ordered on time, or short ordered etc. Over and over. Idled labor (no materials), no labor on site (when materials were delivered) etc. Low progress, very inefficient.

Appearances suggested all the busy distractions of a good builder who had became very disorganized by an election effort - was the cause of project delays.

Really it was a smoke screen for a builder going bad. He worked a game to skim about 680,000 of of the ongoing project, and funneled the money into his election. He did that by not paying his suppliers (200,000 to one, 100,000 to another), short paying subs (short by 180,000) and asking me for advanced money (ahead of the scheduled agreement) of 200,000 to expedite the job that had become badly stalled. Pay in advance to improve the schedule, more labor, more materials etc - so when his logic.

Sadly he won his election. To win he had to expend a 4 M b war chest, buying votes. To do that he not only had to skim my job, but he also badly skimming (2) Thai families out of their hard earned money on two other homes as well. Between these projects he built up at least half his needed vote buying war chest. The rest came from taking loans from many sources.

He eventually defaulted on my project and I had to take him to court. I have recovered about 50% to date, and have a debt judgment, that resulted in transfer of the title to his home and lot - This is the only reason why he is paying me. If he pays up - I will give him his property, if he doesnt I will sell it off. Everyone else screwed by this contractor got nothing... Zippo.

No amount of checking out of this builder (who's reputation had been stellar in that community) could have covered the outcome I had to deal with. Transferring the project, getting another contractor up to speed etc.

I brought in a 2nd builder who did very well. So good - that I gave him (2) other decent projects (one concurrent and one sequential) to the house completion project.

Even the good working relationship in place with this new builder.... issues came up that had to be properly sorted, when this"good" builder attempted to short change specifications or flim flam about money towards the end of the other projects.

That "good builder" and I call him that - because he did the job well. Cried "poor" at the end of every project he did. So I agreed to be fair and reasonable, and offered to sit down and cover project financial s with him and his account (his wife). Assuring both if they could document their losses or major errors in estimates made I would adjust the project price.

Under such review, It was discovered that (2) loss claims were pure fiction and did not match to materials or time costs involved as they had claimed. The last project deficiency traced to the builder failing to tell his accountant (his wife) of a 100,000 payment made to him. A payment that he blew on Karoke girls over a period of time (about a month) on the job...

Of course I did not unravel that, but his wife did - once she saw evidence of that 100,000 payment made to him. Poor guy was badly put into the dog house.

The bottom line is that even with a good builder - being prepared for irregularities is a likely event. Keeping track of the project (material receipts, cash payments etc) is a must do practice. Making somebody sign for every cash payment is an absolute must, because otherwise they can fall through the crack. When that happens, you are open to shenanigans along the way.

One more thing to keep in mind. Big Names are not often better either. My friend gave me contact to a big builder. Someone who built his home, and who he worked with for the home acceptance period and afterward. The builder was US educated, masters degree, perfect command of English, A top name who has build (3) subdivisions in Korat.

I got him on the phone, and he was interested in my home project. So we met for coffee in Korat. He took me to his office, turned my drawings over to his staff, who he assured me would produce free 3 D elevation drawings, and provide a detailed price quotation for the entire job. Certainly fair enough. I heard the whole story about his crews taking work outside of their subdivisions - to stay busy during slack sales periods.

Then It turned into a "hey I want to show you my latest projects". So it was a tours of the two completed sub divisions, and on to the new one.

Then it became "Hey I want to show you a house that the original buyer has backed out of, because he is stuck in IRAQ". This became a walk through a 60% home - floor to floor, window to window... sales pitch on this home. Then came an offer to sell it 2 M cheaper because of the money spend by the other owner who backed out. Telling me I would benefit from that guys loss... Sadly, such a story told to me, made him look like a swindler. Good ethics would be to have charged the same price, and refund the money back to the guy who couldnt close.

I wasn't really interested in living in Korat, and I kept my mouth quiet about all the cracking I could spot on stair case walls, on lots of the exterior wall headers etc. Not good things to see in a home after the final rendering was done, but before other finishing had been done.

In the end - I politely told this "Big Builder" that I did not really want to live in Korat, but thanked him just the same for the offer.

I never got a follow up e mail about my plans, my quote for my house project, or 3 D drawings he promised to have in a couple of days. Long and short - It was BS from a big name in the home business, who wanted to push an unfinished spec house off to bring in cash flow for his development. No harm done. I laugh about him giving me the deal of a lifetime on 5 Mb CRACKED HOUSE in his new project. RIGHT NEXT TO THE CLUB HOUSE, Back balcony that will overlook the Pool.... Limit Deal, Dont pass it by, profit to advantage from someone elses misfortune.... yada Yada Yada...
Like the movie "The STING" taught - Its easy to run a scam, on someone greedy or unethical. But those confidence games seldom work on honest people.

Tom, you are nót going to find perfection in the building process here in LOS. But what you can hope to do - is get a good build at a fair price.

To do that - selecting and finding a "good builder" as challenging as sounds on the landscape here..... Its still the easiest part of the project. Steering the project to successful completion becomes your challenge, or the challenge to who ever you allocate that responsibility to.

As part of the process I went through to get to a finished design..... I met with a very generous architect (in Phi Mai), who gave me 2 1/2 hours of his time. He evaluated my drawings, and asked and answered a lot of questions. We actively discussed use of ACC block, and his own experiences building homes with it. Open discussions on window materials, glazing options, etc. The guy was a wealth of knowledge. In the end - I asked him to take my drawings and draft a full set of engineered plans.

He had a 3 month waiting list of clients, and could not do the plans for me for at least 6 months. I give him high marks for honesty, generosity, and good free advice. He liked my design and what was incorporated in it. He gave me the name of a great drawing program, that he uses for his rough design concept work, and I eventually changed my designs over to that program. Finding a good architect is probably harder than getting a good builder. He mostly catered to high end Luxury vacation villa's designed in the Hua Hine beach front area.

Without an Architect left me to have to work out a lot more details to the house. To get it ready for moving to contractor selection.

My home required no zoning permits, no drawing approvals, no civic review, no electrical approvals, other than a careful negotiation to get 15 A service from the utility, and their approval to run an underground electrical service.

If you are having the entire project designed and engineered from the outside, through a builder and an architect - better start early.

I did about (7) redesigns of my home, adjusting the floor plan, before I got the final room sizes and arrangements. This sucked up my free time for about 3 months. I had to rework the electrical portion at least twice, because of amenity changes. Things like 6 A/C units, security lighting, facade lighting, front wall lighting, an external large HW heater, a separate outdoor kitchen / laundry room, added pumping and water filtration capacity. But I have remodeled old homes, and know some of the drill to upgrade living space. Designing from scratch just takes a few other new skills added to the mix.

All that crap, although essential, is what architects and their staff do. Without an architect...... guess who has to step up (the owner). Most electricians will install to spec, and most can do good basic layout. But most would struggle to do a more complex layout like I have here. Most Thai wiring is very simple. Its not western wiring as you and I would know it.

I am an engineer by profession and know how to make the calculations, specify wire sizes and breakers to keep it all safe. Its rule based logic and basic calculations.

I mention this, because this is the kind of granularity in detail, that is going to be required if you are going to champion the project, without professional help.

Getting Thai wives to look creatively at design is difficult. They are good at looking at a scale drawing from CAD or a 3 D when comparing between alternatives. It is difficult for most to be able to look objectively at one floor plan and see its weaknesses and ask for specific changes. Likewise it is difficult for them to pick out an alternatives to traditional Thai exteriors, or select a blended style trend - If you envision a design that has some kind of unusual flair.

What works best is to get some good books or magazines that show nice features, that have the eye appeal or space use that are in keeping with good designs and working hard to integrate them into your floor plan. This is the process that worked well for me, to get the wife to sort things through. Do not expect an enlightened partner, with strong design opinions, or a bubbly response to changes large and small.

Thailand is a hot harsh climate. The cooling degree days here are on par with Dubai, UAE. It is almost 2.5 times higher than Texas. Much hotter than the canal zone. While people don't realize this. The numbers don't lie and are easily obtainable. Use of ACC block, careful attention to a potential home sites orientation, and specific home orientation on a new site are important details.

Designing with these factors in mind, will determine where to place your car port, where to place your glazing and where to avoid placing it, how to maximize airflow for the prevailing western breezes. Again - these are things good architects will incorporate - when they look at site / lot orientation and home style preference.

For example... I have a large carport, which is longer, taller, and double wide, and its on the west side of the home. This carport effectively shades a lot of the homes west side - from mid day till sunset. A large door & 3 windows are open on that side of the home, which will move a good breeze into the house. The south side has only 1 full window, and 3 smaller profile kitchen windows that get partial shading from the large roof overhang. Most glazing is on the North and East sides, so there is minimal solar gain, but lots of places for air to move out from the house.

Use of ACC block, solar glass, and full radiant barrier reflectorized roof insulation - work well to keep heat out. It gives economical A/C operation as well. Typically 2 of 6 units are in service at any given time. More are in operation with a houseful - or a party ongoing. The tall finished ceilings are 12 feet tall inside, that allows any warm air a place to move up and out of the living space. The entire space above the ceilings is open to the roof peak to allow any hot air an escape pathway. The roof is tall with full standing room above the interior walls and ceiling. This gives a good open volume which allows the radiant barrier to keep the heat out of the space. There was no need to insulate the sheet rock ceilings, by designing the space above them in this way.

During periods when AC is in service, the cool air is naturally kept down in the home, and will not escape up through the ceiling.

Again these are small details, Good home designers who know the Thailand climate will use these principals and others to get all weather comfort from the home, at a reasonable efficiency level, without going bankrupt, from utility costs.

It sounds like you will have a lot of flexibility, building on a large family plot, so the ability to integrate many aspects into the design and the surrounding lot options are well worth looking into.

Done well - You can create a home that will work well with the surroundings, and can include a lot of garden space and other elements to make it an oasis - even in the hottest weather.

Integrating all good things intelligently into the design and getting a successful build at a fair price, without getting burned is what makes Thailand projects interesting and rewarding all at the same time. Being flexible is what makes this work. Being rigid and expecting smooth project execution, without rework is not realistic. Keeping the project off the rocks, or steering it off the rocks - when it looks like it is going to land there.... That is realistic outcome.

The challenge of executing all of this not in English, but in Thai - will help improve the communication between yourself and your spouse or her family who will probably assist along the way. Those are also worthy goals that are achievable if you are flexible and patient.

If you feel like you do not have those qualities on tap - It may well be better to look at buying something already built. Making changes as you need to make it fit your requirements.

Home modifications are big here as well, with lots of people who rework, change floor plans, additions etc and who do so very well and add a lot to a lot to standard floor plans.

My hats go off to the good work I have seen people undertake to improve their homes here. They are a source of inspiration, everybody knows someone who has made good improvements to their original homes.

The same things that zoning rules make it difficult in the US to make a lot of changes. They are easy here, so every home is only a starting place. You have time to look around, and refine your preferences. Remember to be flexible and expect the unexpected and the process of relocating and building will be a good experience.

Good luck


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Old 07-02-2011, 11:39 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Street view


Here is a snapshot taken of the my home from across the street. Its not the best picture, but It was all I could scare up at a first look for an image. Bad camera setting and late evening shot make it tough to see clearly. The back porch, back buildings, fountain and rest of the yard dont show up here in this shot. Back porch is now roofed over with translucent panels to give a better play place in the rainy season for my daughter.

I will have to do a bit better with the pictures some time to sho more of the details more clearly. If you include the porches its aroun 230 m2 of single floor living space. The building is elevated 2 ft above the ground, with an isolated crawl space to give a little better isolation for the floor slab - to act as stabilizing mass - to mediate hot and cold temperatures.

Raise water tank in the rear doubles as a patio with only a 1/2 step down from the kitchen. Integrated under the tank's poured concrete slab top - is a layer of insulation and about 220 feet of 3/4 inch copper tubing. This tubing set in a serpentine pattern in the slab, serves as a passive solar heater, pre-heating the water that enters the HW heater. This helps off set HW costs by reducing the cycling of the heater somewhat. That copper tubing was mandrel bent to reduce flow restrictions, and silver soldered at all joints to reduce chance of a joint failure inside the slab. The heat picked up on most sunny days brings the water up to a decent temperature fairly fast. The amount stored in the coil will offset a 40 percent draw down of the HW heater - so its like having a HW heater twice the size.

I integrated it into the design, when I saw the utility rates, and have not been disappointed, despite the labor and first costs involved with the install. These are the things that you can consider when you add to your design for different purposes.

The water tank holds 30,000 liters. It is recharged by rain in the rainy season. This reduces my water filter back flushing requirements.. When you live in a rural area - Water quality for washing / bathing is a significant issue. That is not a problem in cities. All those kinds of issues are easily solved, with a little planning.

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Old 08-02-2011, 01:56 AM   #30 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by mellow View Post
Originally Posted by Chairman Mao View Post
I would also be wary of retiring to Thailand and building a house in Buriram on my first day.

I'd rent there for a while first. Like a year or two. Can probably rent an amazing pad for peanuts.

This might put you in the doghouse for a while, but see just how tough they take it that you're not building them a house straight off the bat.

Excellent advice, but it will probably be ignored.

3rd that also . play the 'not sure game' . Takes a while before the penny(cent) drops.
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Old 08-02-2011, 12:26 PM   #31 (permalink)
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This is good advice as well

Originally Posted by billy the kid View Post
Originally Posted by mellow View Post
Originally Posted by Chairman Mao View Post
I would also be wary of retiring to Thailand and building a house in Buriram on my first day.

I'd rent there for a while first. Like a year or two. Can probably rent an amazing pad for peanuts.

This might put you in the doghouse for a while, but see just how tough they take it that you're not building them a house straight off the bat.

Excellent advice, but it will probably be ignored.

3rd that also . play the 'not sure game' . Takes a while before the penny(cent) drops.
I would like to confirm a 4th on that good advice to consider renting.

While it is nice to desire to locate near her family, It may not be as friendly or as connected a location as you may prefer - for a longer term. The only way to be sure the location has traction for you is to live there. Renting offers a low cost option to compare.

I found other locations, in my travels that would have supported as good or better a lifestyle, because of nearby interests. In the end, places we find we like, are candidates to consider for a second home. But in the end I wanted farm land as well, and that is very hard to find in some of the other popular areas. So its all a trade off and balance.

A recent trip to Chang Mai - where we stayed with friends for 4 days - proved to be over the top, with a lot of awesome things a very close drive... National Parks, Hot Springs, Great restaurants and good pubs, and great local shopping. Also a year ago I traveled up to a mid sized town on the Mekong river. It had strong french influences from Vientien Laos, across the river. The place through off an aura like New Orleans - wandering the older riverside streets and looking at the older archecture and walls. No question the people were laid back and influenced by the river life. Met great people in all those places as well.

In the end - Part of the fun of Living in Thailand is traveling to places to stay a while and explore. One can stay reasonably cost effective to visit most places.

The recommendation to explore before settling, and renting with a careful posture, has not a single downside associated with it.

If her family is truly a good group - they will be supportive of every choice both of you make, and will take no offense at those pursuits.

Experiencing travel and support of your extended family to do so is just as an important part of your foundation in Thailand as any other part. Before you seriously take up the challenge of building in a specific location.

I have good friends, who built in a new subdivision - a lake front home. Mosquitoes are a big problem for them, as is flooding that now appears to be a yearly (3) to (4) week problem per year. It didn't flood in their first year, but has in every year since. They have upgraded their property to reduce flood impacts, and are doing so again this year. Had they elected to rent nearby for a year. They would have recognized the Mosquito issue, and the local flooding concerns. and perhaps considered alternatives to their current location. They are doing fine dealing with all of it, but after 5 years of yearly flooding they are getting weary of sandbags, the clean up, and riding in boats a few weeks per year.

All things to keep in mind, as you consider your Thailand relocation and retirement. Nothing offered here by me to sensationalize things - All are real experiences and considerations developed from talking with friends of their experiences. Again, good luck...

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Old 23-02-2011, 09:04 AM   #32 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Naja Tom View Post
Thanks for the floor plan Norton. I have been scouring other threads reading about the different kind of blocks vs brick, etc. I will have lots of info to sit down and talk to the wife about after she gets here and we start preliminary planning.
Naja Tom;

You should seriously consider ACC block. It has various names "Super block" etc. It is autoclaved air entrained light weight concrete block. Big advantage in reducing heat gain. Blocks thermal R value is about 6 x greater than conventional clay block or concrete blocks.

Dis advantage of ACC - You can sledge hammer through it easily. Regular concrete block isn't much better. Only the small clay blocks w/ thick cement joints old up to impacts well.

I have a building that uses both type of block, conventional concrete and ACC block. The ACC was used for an office area, regular block for a work area. When the sun is beating down on the walls - an hand on the inside of the wall, will detect a big difference. The ACC wall feels like ambient air temperature, but the regular block wall is noticeably warm to the touch.

You can expect utility / energy costs to be 2 x, or 2.5 x over the next 10 years. Building with a more energy efficient material is worth a small premium cost.

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